So it’s that time of year again!  Volunteering for Career Day at Discovery Middle School.  This year I was able to have my full gear on as I told the kids about my career.  I didn’t have time last year to find the old metatarsals and greens at the Harn but this year, the 6th Graders got the full show.

Last year, the kids were so nice, sending along thank you letters that were fantastic.  I had a ball with them and they were full of great questions.  I was a bit nervous I might get letters from the parents as a couple kids asked about death in the steel mills.  I was honest with them and wondered if it might have been too much to share.  But… no parent letters!!  We’ll see how this year pans out in the next few weeks!  I did have one really poor answer at the end of the first class… and a sketchy one in the third class.  One of the kids in the second class is a co-worker’s son so we’ll see what he tells her!!

This year I again did three classrooms and the kids were even more enthusiastic.  We ran to the bell in each class with questions and answers and they were excited to see the crafts I make now that I’m more in charge of my own time.  The crafts did get attention.  I start my talk asking if the kids know what Metallurgical Engineering is and get some interesting speculation.  I had brought one of the succulent arrangements I made Monday with the Crafting Ladies inciting one kid to speculate that Metallurgical Engineering had something to do with plants.  Which is a good use of data… to come to an erroneous conclusion,  😦 but I like his thinking. 🙂 Observation is good!

Then I talk about my path to Engineering from being a kid who loved reading, math and science, to how I ended up as the Quality Manager for a Steel Mill.  I credit Mrs. Moore, my 9th grade Biology teacher with directing me to a Women in Engineering camp at the University of Dayton my freshman year which gave me exposure to the various types of Engineering from Chemical to Electrical, Civil to Mechanical and Materials Science was presented – we made plastic keychains in an injection mold.  I knew from standing behind a tripod that Civil was not my bag.  So when I ended up graduating early from High School (I was a problem child and my guidance counselor let me know if I skipped taking study halls Junior year, I’d be able to graduate a year early by taking Civics – a Senior class – during summer school), I was offered three options at the University of Cincinnati: [Yeah, Purdue has closed admissions by the time I figured out I was graduating early.]  Engineering Mechanics, Civil Engineering, or Metallurgical Engineering.  I thought Engineering Mechanics sounded a bit esoteric & vague so I told Mr. Murphy, “Whatever that Metallurgical thing is, I’ll try that.”

I ended up doing co-op terms at GE Aircraft Engines while studying at UC and had 27 months of work experience on graduation in areas from Applications to Development to R&D.  [And then the aerospace collapse happened when I graduated in 1991 so I ended up going into steel. Thank goodness I didn’t pursue that idea of transferring to Aerospace Engineering!]  I talk about my first job in the Met Lab and my transition to Technical Service and then to Quality.  Then I give them some facts on Engineering and an example of a typical day for me in my job as the Quality Manager.

I talk about the benefits and downside of my various jobs and then about what I thought I wanted to be when I was younger.  I walk them through how to decide what they will be when they enter the workforce and this is where I got lots of thanksCDBook from the kids in their letters thanking me for visiting.  I tell them to read, to explore their passions, to try things and talk with people who do what they think they’d like to do.  I encourage them to job shadow and also to read What Color is Your Parachute.  This book was instrumental to me in making the transition from Mill Met to Tech Service, probably my favorite job of all (with the exception of the 80-90 hour weeks).  I challenge them to “Dare to be YOU!”  I tell them not to think about the money but to do what they love doing.  I tell them the money will follow and, anyway… they can always change their minds later!  Many kids thanked me especially last year for telling them to not think about the money but instead to think about what they like to do.

This year’s kids asked lots of questions about the flexibility of my job, what I liked best, if I ever got hurt on the job, if other people got injured (but we avoided the death part of this line of questioning this year), and if I was proud of the work I’d done.  I really liked that question.  I am very proud of the work I did.  I always worked hard and with integrity, follow-through, and attention to documentation.  And I believe I was respected for my work.  And I have had many tell me how much they missed me after I have left jobs so hopefully others thought I did OK too.  Or maybe they just missed my outspoken attitude!!

I am glad for the path I took as it has allowed me to continue on the path I have now.  But I don’t regret leaving either.  The stress on my body and mind, the long commutes, the frustration being a woman in a very male dominant culture – don’t miss any of that.  And I love selling books!  The work and play and volunteering I do today are much more aligned with my passions.  And I love living here in Alexandria, close to Mom, enjoying life and trying to be healthy.  On that note, I was quite pleasantly surprised – as I worried if my mill greens might be too tight… to find that they were in fact quite too big!  Even the belt I made at Rec Lab was loose on the tightest hole so I had a great feeling about that.

The teachers were appreciative.  Two were repeats from last year and gave me high praise to their classes on introducing me.  Hopefully I wasn’t a disappointment to the kids!  I asked at the end how many kids wanted to be Engineers and there were only 2.  Yeah, total.  One each in the first and second classes.  But when I asked how many had learned a lot about Engineering, more than half of each class raised their hands.  So they are better informed at the least.  Seems like many want to pursue careers in the health fields, policing, art and a few are thinking about teaching. I explained to the second class that ALL of us end up being teachers.  No matter what.  Nurses teach you how to care for your bodies, veterinarians teach us to care for our animals, even factory workers end up teaching the guy who comes in to train on how to run the process.  So learning how to communicate is critical.

In the end, who knows what these kids will need to be trained to do in another 6-10 years.  Things seem to be changing so fast these days.  I did tell them that they would likely have several jobs, possibly even several types of jobs.  The average time a person stays in a job these days is 4.4 years but 91% of Millennials expect to stay in a job less than 3 years!  It looks like they could be doing quite a lot of different things.  http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeannemeister/2012/08/14/job-hopping-is-the-new-normal-for-millennials-three-ways-to-prevent-a-human-resource-nightmare/#4be4c5c65508